A war of words is now underway between Tanzania and Kenya over the ban for Tanzanian-registered tour vehicles to access Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). One of the battlefields is the social media scene where Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, added fuel to the fire when he accused his Kenyan counterpart, Phyllis Kandie, of lacking wisdom and a sense of diplomacy after she restored the ban last week.
The two protagonists, to the bewilderment and in some parts sheer exasperation by other East African Community member states, have been having a go at each other since Kenya imposed the ban first in mid-December. Nyalandu then rushed to Nairobi for urgent talks which took place on January 16, which, while not conclusive, achieved two things: For one, the ban was lifted the following day, and secondly, it was agreed to meet in Arusha on February 5 for further talks, at which stage both delegations would bring with them a wish list and a list of grievances.
Tanzania though pulled out of the talks at short notice, informing their Kenyan counterparts with barely a few days to spare, that they were postponing the talks by a further few weeks to “more widely consult with stakeholders.” This explanation was promptly rejected by Kenyan officials who blamed their Tanzanian counterparts of stalling and delaying coming to the table and being finally compelled to face reality.
It is not the first time that Nyalandu is evading issues. This correspondent at the ATA Conference last year in Munyonyo, Kampala attempted to speak to the Minister, who when learning who he was facing said that he would be available later during the conference only to fly back the next morning to Dar es Salaam.
Reactions from Tanzania were mixed with cooler heads pleading for the tension to be defused and a date set immediately for a meeting in Arusha for the two ministers and their delegations. Other more hot-headed individuals displayed the proverbial rabid foam dripping from their mouths when they let fly, with one source, not wishing to be named, not just throwing fuel into the fire but explosives: “These Kenyans will see us. For how many years have we accessed JKIA, and there was never an issue. Now they first ban our airline from flying to Nairobi [reference is made here to the denial of landing rights for Fastjet for the Dar es Salaam to Nairobi route] and now they ban our vehicles also. They keep accusing us to fear competition, but it is increasingly clear who fears whom now.